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Removing and Replacing Body Clips Is Easy When You’re Equipped

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Over the past 20 years, the automotive industry has seen an explosion in the use of plastic body fastening clips, also known as trim or push retainers. From body trim, undercarriage splash panels and engine bay covers, to interior panels, such as door and dash, these little wonders have replaced hundreds of metal screws and bolts throughout vehicles.

But when removal is required, these durable plastic clips can actually be quite fragile. They’re easy to remove and reinsert, if you use the right tool. Try prying them off with a screwdriver or a flat piece of metal, chances are you’ll destroy the fastener and may even damage the panel.

Using the recommended specialized tools, along with some patience, will go a long way in preventing damage to the body clips and the panels you’re trying to remove — and save a lot of frustration in the process.

Expansion At Work

Body fastening clips perform much like drywall fasteners by expanding behind the panel when inserted through pre-drilled holes. Once inserted, they hold the panels, covers and other components firmly in place.

Push-in and screw-in designs are the two primary categories of body clips. Within those categories are closed bottom, barbed (or Christmas tree), screw type and open bottom clip types. Christmas tree fasteners have earned their title due to the ridges along the clip’s shaft that look similar to an inverted pine tree.

In all cases, using the right tool to remove the panel and protect the clips is very important. You might be thinking that any narrow metal blade, like a putty knife or a flat-blade screwdriver, will do the job,  however, if you try to pull the clips out unevenly they might break or lose their strength, becoming useless when you want to put them back in.

Tools You’ll Need

There are virtually dozens of tools that can aid in the removal and replacement of body panels. However, there are some basic tools everyone should have.

One is the panel clip removal pliers. They operate like regular pliers only with thin flat ends to get under the head of larger clips. The thin ends are placed under the fastener head and the pliers squeezed. The ends are spread open and force applied directly to the clip. It’s ideal for situations when you don’t want to move the tool around too much and damage surfaces. There are many variations.

You should also have a set of trim fastener and molding removal tools  in a variety of sizes to remove and re-insert body clips in tight spaces. In situations where attachment points are hidden, you may also need a tool with a 90-degree bent head.

There are some clips that are much stronger than others, including those used for door moldings. If you know you’re going to have to pull clips from interior moldings, you may want a set of nylon pry tools. Because they’re softer, they’re less likely to chip paint or damage soft interior parts, such as dash covers and consoles. They're useful for parts that have been bonded on as well.

Of course, there are plenty of other tools that you might need out there, but as long as you have a panel clip removal pliers and trim fastener and molding removal tools, you should have a ‘friendly’ tool to reach for. 

Let Us Help

All of us at Imperial Supplies are ready to assist you in finding the right equipment for your needs — including a full range of over 1,100 body clips for most vehicle makes and models along with the necessary removal tools. We’ll continue to offer the best-known names in the business, providing you with the ultimate in value and performance.

Perhaps most importantly, we’re ready with the advice and expertise you need to make better, more informed maintenance decisions, no matter what area of fleet management you’re currently working in. When you’re facing an unexpected challenge, reach out to your Dedicated Account Advisor. You’ll find out exactly how Your Fleet is Our Focus.


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